How to have healthy teeth and gums—from the experts

Published May 12, 2021, 6:09 PM

by Jessica Pag-iwayan

Oral health ‘unimportant’ for most Filipinos

DENTIST WHO? Data shows that seven out of 10 Filipinos have never been to a dentist (Unsplash)

We are now living in a digital era but despite the continues technological advancement, in the Philippines, the importance of overall dental health care isn’t a top priority in Filipino households. 

Based on the 2011 National Monitoring and Evaluation Dental Survey conducted by the Department of Health (DOH), more than seven out of 10 Filipinos have never been to a dentist, leaving most of them unaware of their oral health state. 

To shed light about the importance of overall dental health, in an exclusive interview, Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, talks with Dr. Alvin Laxamana, president of the Philippine Dental Association (PDA), and Johnson & Johnson’s oral care scientist, Dr. Ashita Bhatia. 

Oral health not a priority
Having a beautiful smile can be one’s best asset, but sadly, keeping a healthy dental health is not a concern for most Filipinos. 

“Most Filipinos consider oral health an unimportant part of their lives. They cannot see the value in having a good set of teeth and healthy gums, and therefore it is not their priority,” says Dr. Laxamana. “PDA focuses on improving public knowledge and increasing their awareness of how essential oral health is in their well-being. We try to show them the connection between good oral health, overall health, and quality of life. In this time of the pandemic, with limited access to oral care services, it has come to their realization that maintaining a healthy mouth counts.” 

With the pandemic threatening everyone’s lives, this makes it even more difficult for Pinoys to visit their dentist. But even with the ongoing pandemic, Dr. Laxama emphasized how important it is to maintain a good dental habit, not just simply brushing the teeth. 

“The proper oral health routine must start with one’s correct behavior, of accepting that having good oral health is an integral part of general health. It must be a part of daily personal care and it should never be neglected,” he says. “Aside from using the correct amount of fluoridated toothpaste, you need to brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes, once in the morning and again in the evening before you go to sleep. You also need to eat calcium-rich foods, green leafy vegetables, and fruits full of Vitamin C. These edibles will help you to have stronger teeth and healthier gums.” 

NOT ENOUGH Both Dr. Laxamana and Dr. Bhatia agreed that brushing alone is not enough (Unsplash)

Brushing alone is not enough
This is something Dr. Bhatia agrees with. For her, brushing our teeth alone is not enough and should be combined with regular usage of mouthwash. 

“Our teeth make up 25 precent of our mouth and clinical research has shown that brushing teeth only removes 30-53 percent of plaque,” she explains. “Numerous studies have proven that adding a mouthwash such as Listerine to your daily oral hygiene routine can provide much greater plaque and gingivitis reduction when compared to brushing alone. This is because, mouthwashes that contain powerful anti-bacterial ingredients such as essential oils have the ability to attack plaque and kill bacteria in the whole mouth and not just on the teeth.” 

Rinsing with a mouthwash after brushing and flossing is highly recommended

Given the then recommends following these simple steps—brushing, flossing, and rinsing with a mouthwash. “Clinical studies have proven that patients that have a daily oral hygiene….showed a much higher reduction in plaque and gingivitis when compared to patients that just brushed and flossed,” Dr. Bhatia says. “This is especially important because data shows that 93 percent of Filipinos have cavities and gum diseases.” 

On top of all of these tips, the two doctors remind everyone to not forget visiting the dentist regularly. “Brushing your teeth with fluoridated toothpaste and the use of other adjuncts is not enough to have optimum oral health…..most important in this routine is to visit your dentist regularly,” Dr. Laxamana ends.